psycho shower scene

On May 13, 2016 the Obama administration issued a letter of guidance concerning the protection of gender identity in school housing, restrooms, and locker room facilities under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The letter was largely seen as a reaction to a March 2016 law passed in North Carolina, HB 2 – Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which limited public restroom use to one’s assigned at birth gender. On August 21, 2016, however, a Texas U.S. District judge blocked the federal government from implementing that directive, instead arguing that Title IX aimed to “protect students’ personal privacy, or discussion of their personal privacy, while in the presence of members of the opposite biological sex.” The district court applied a similar logic to HB 2 in arguing that gender identity was strictly “biological” (e.g., what one’s birth certificate says).

The district court ruling, in line with several others this year, relies on and perpetuates a number of transphobic beliefs which seem apropos to mention here, namely: a normalized definition of biological sex, the notion of trans bodies as illegible, impure, or incomplete, the forced hypervisibility of trans bodies through constant surveillance, the public fixation on genitalia as a ‘true’ indicator of gender identity, and the displacement/occlusion of responsibility for anti-trans violence. It is, in particular, the contemporary mobilization of a politics of shame, manifest through the aforementioned practices, however, that I would like to hone in on.

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Photo taken at the Napoli Pride Parade in 2010
Photo taken at the Napoli Pride Parade in 2010

Content Note: This posts discusses various forms of transmisogyny and TERFs

On Tuesday, Lisa Wade posted a piece to the Sociological Images blog, asking some important questions about drag- Is it misogynistic? Should it be allowed in LGBT safe spaces? How can pride organizers enforce drag-free pride events, if such an idea is useful? The good news is that many of these questions are already being asked in some circles. The bad news, is that outside of these circles –where specifics are unknown and the cis experience takes centre stage– such questions can lead to some harmful conclusions. more...

This week in my grad seminar, we discussed new materialism, technology, and embodiment via Elvia Wilk’s Cluster Mag article on “How the feminist internet utopia failed, and we ended up with speculative realism,” and Julian Gill-Peterson’s blog post “We Are Not Cyborg Subjects, We Are Artisans.” Wilk’s article is about, in part, the way that posthumanism, as a concept and an area of academic study, shifted from 90s cyberfeminism to postmillennial new materialism/speculative realism. It’s also a feminist analysis of the expectation that our online selves accurately and truthfully represent our “real” fleshy bodies (as are manifest, for example, in the nymwars). Peterson’s post is about transgender embodiment; it uses a new materialist framework to argue that technology is not something mixed in with an already self-sufficient body (e.g., a cyborg), but a co-requisite of embodiment from the beginning. As Peterson argues, “all bodies are formed through technogenesis and the active participation of the body’s materiality in its continual becoming, its continual modification.” Things like games, toys, interaction with caregivers–all these things draw out and shape its bodies potentialities into a typically “human” body, one that, for example, knows how to use its opposable thumb, and has hand-eye coordination. Peterson’s point is that trans* embodiment isn’t more or less technologically mediated/assisted than regular embodiment–it’s just different technologies with a vastly different politics. The world has been materially, technologically, socially, epistemically, and politically organized to make bodies cis-gendered, so trans* embodiment requires working against the grain or bending the circuits of normative technogenesis.

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Alan Turing, Father of Computer Science

President Obama declared June to be LGBT Pride Month and so, I though it would be appropriate for us here at Cyborgology, to take a moment and recognize how LGBT peoples were foundational to the construction of cyborg studies and other inter/trans/multidisciplinary fields. I should note upfront that this incredibly brief summary, from a macro perspective, does some violence to the critical nuance of all the fields mentioned. I hope this post encourages further research, not angry comments about my (acknowledged) hurried treatment of the subject matter. Consider this more of a conversation-starter, than a stand-alone digest. I would also like to thank my good friend Naomi Ardjomandkermani for inspiring me to do this post. She does fantastic work with intersex communities on the web at http://intersexresources.moonfruit.com.

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